Dormition of the Theotokos Greek Orthodox Church in Oakmont, PA

The Tradition of Lighting Candles

Upon entering an Orthodox church it is customary to light candles and offer prayers for one's personal needs or that of a family member or friend. Candles are lit before icons as a sign of one's faith and prayers. The candle is also a witness of our faith, and expresses our burning and grateful love for God.

According to St. John of Krondstadt, a 19th century saint of the Church:

    "The fire of burning ... candles and lamps, like the censer with its hot needles and aromatic incense, serves as a reminder of the spiritual fire - the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles in the form of tongues of flame. It scorches our sinful misdemeanors, illuminates the minds and hearts, kindles our souls with a love for God and towards each other.

    The fire before the holy icons is a reminder of the fiery love of the Saints for our Lord. Through this love they came to detest the world with its charms, and all manner of lies.

    Fire glowing before the holy icons reminds us we should serve God, pray to God with fervor - something we often do not possess, since our hearts are grown cold. So everything in the church is instructive - there is no place for the idle...."

In practice, when lighting a candle in Church the faithful usually make a small offering to the Church. The small sacrifice, the donation given for the candle that is lit, benefits the Church in real terms. By lighting a candle and offering a prayer, one enters into closer contact with the Church and her ministry to the faithful, invisibly warming the soul by the visible light of the candle.

— Permission given to reproduce by Fr. Peter Paproski
American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
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